Laws distract us from future consequences


When I was less experienced, it was easier to rile me up with a story. Then I realized that a story tells only part of the truth, the part that needs to be told to get you to like the story. Thus the woman your buddy picked up at a bar who had the huge gazongas in reality looks like a horse, and huge gazongas can’t help that; the huge party they went to was actually 15 frat guys and a keg.

Thus when a news article comes out or someone whispers a tale to me at a social event, I’m less likely to take sides. I’m more likely to think that it’s time to learn more and assess the whole situation, not assume that the tale is reality. The oldest human error is to confuse our perception with reality.

Even worse is when the laws behavior like that story. They tell you part of the situation, defined in the self-referential terms of the law itself, and miss out on what the law is designed to prevent: bad consequences. Laws are designed to avoid bad consequences in the here and now, but that can’t always be done once a victim’s on the ground. So they are also designed to remove incentive for the kind of actions that lead to future bad consequences, or so we’re told.

A case in point, where the law fails by being too self-referential, is the more of the necessary facts in Byron Smith’s case:

Kifer and Brady were cousins and were well-known in the community. Both were involved in sports, and Kifer worked several part-time jobs, according to online obituaries.

But a different picture of the teens emerged after their deaths. Authorities have said a car linked to Brady and Kifer contained prescription drugs that had been stolen from another house, apparently the day before they were killed. And court documents from another case show Brady had burglarized Smith’s property at least twice in the months before he was shot.

In other words, these weren’t two teens going down to the basement in what they thought was an empty house to have a little private time. These were hardened criminals who had hit this house twice before. Apparently, law enforcement couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything. Thus Byron Smith did what any sane person would do: he removed the threat.

The herd will gather around this trial and decide that Smith was a bad guy and these kids were innocent victims. The truth is usually more nuanced. I know nothing about Smith, but it’s likely we didn’t lose anyone good with these kids. Often popular kids of this type are simply the most manipulative of the class and have learned to fool adults convincingly.

Manipulators know how to look good on the surface and, when no one is looking, to adjust situations to their own benefit. Often our biggest criminals are of this type. We (originally) set up laws to protect citizens from such people. Our idea was to prevent future consequences, which are caused by tolerance of bad acts in the present. But under the herd-rule, the law has become a weapon against us.

The law is just the wrong tool to use here. It makes good people helpless in the face of manipulators such as these burglars. So what if Byron Smith intended to murder these two idiots? What we have here is a case of justifiable murder: bad people keep doing bad things, society sticks its thumb where the sun doesn’t shine, and so one man ends the problem. Give him a medal, not a conviction.


  1. crow says:

    “The oldest human error is to confuse our perception with reality.”

    Reality is what is there before peoples’ minds get hold of it and change it into what is their perception of reality. Two completely different fish.
    Thanks Brett. Not many are going to understand that, but here’s one who does.

    1. Hauer says:

      It is clear that perception and reality are separate. Optical illusions are an easy proof of that. However, just because they are separate in some cases does not always mean they always opposed. In the most important ways, life has evolved to make them as close as possible. Perceiving a bloodthirsty lion as a tame cat is a quick way to die.

      1. crow says:

        Being terrified of it is another quick way to die.

        1. Hauer says:

          Depends on what kind of terror it brings. If it frightens you in a way that makes you run away, you’ll live longer. If it scares you still, you’ll be just as dead.

          1. crow says:

            Fear generally seems to have the effect of making the body stiff and unresponsive. It can freeze people up completely.
            I seem to be a very rare bird; I don’t become afraid, no matter what. What happens, instead, is I focus very sharply upon the situation that would otherwise promote fear, and become hyper-responsive, hyper-aware, and hyper-prone to survive.

  2. Theodore Logan says:

    Byron Smith’s only mistake was getting the police involved. It boggles my mind that people are so naiive to think law enforcement and government will be on their side when they take matters into their own hands in self defense.

  3. Foam Penguin says:

    You’re getting at something that I see as a foundation of a healthy society that is foreign and alien to the modern West but was actually codified into law in Confucian China: deciding legal conflicts based on nepotism favoring whichever party is closer to a model citizen.

    The more I read about classical Chinese law, the more it seems to me like some case came before the courts and they investigated every person under a microscope, looked at their private lives, looked at their contributions to society and looked at their impact on others and asked themselves, “which of these people would we rather have more of?” and decided the case based 60% on that, 40% on the normal evidence jibber jabber.

    It’s like if someone who is by profession a surgeon/religious leader/lifestyle guru got in some legal dispute with a woman whose profession is crackwhore/internet poster, the courts would kick the dumb slut to the curb no matter what the allegations were.

    Decorated war hero vs. stoned McDonald’s employee goes to the war hero regardless of what was alleged.

    1. crow says:

      When I was seventeen, I hunted rabbits with a crossbow, and one day had one of my bolts miss and fly into a trailer park. As I retrieved it, the owner, some seventy years old, came stomping up and started getting very physical with me. I warned him to back off, and was trying to leave, but he just kept pushing me. I fired the bow at him, with no bolt, to put my message across, thinking that would scare him, but he just charged like a bull.
      I sidestepped and he fell over his own feet, and somehow managed to break his leg.
      I actually tried to help him up, concerned at where this was going, but he tried to pull me down, whereupon I decided to get out of Dodge.
      The story got very interesting, but we’ll skip that. The point was, I hadn’t assaulted him, but he had certainly assaulted me. But, naturally, I was found guilty in a court. Why? Because he was an elderly landowner, while I was a no-account young hooligan.
      I stewed over that for years, but came to realize it was natural and right that the law should protect him, rather than me.
      Ironically, nowadays, he would be found guilty and I would be cast as the victim.
      Go figure.

      1. Foam Penguin says:


        Why should the law protect him though? Because he’s old?

        1. crow says:

          Because, in the past, the law made some sense, unless you happened to be a criminal. The old guy was a man of substance. I was nothing and nobody. He counted. I didn’t. Makes sense to me. The law was intended to serve society, not the individual. Certainly not the starving individual.
          Now, it is completely inverted from what it once was.
          Just in time, naturally, for me to be the older man of substance with no rights and no protection.
          Story of my life.
          Fine :)

  4. MeToo says:

    “Gazongas”? Oh, for heaven’s sake. You mean breasts!

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